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Northland hunting pals were minutes from destination before fatal crash

Aaron Nelson, 22, of Wrenshall, and Nik Nelson, 22, of Carlton, were killed Tuesday in a two-vehicle collision on Highway 61.

Two 2007 graduates of Carlton High School died Tuesday on their way to hunt deer near Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Nik Nelson, of Carlton, and friend Aaron Nelson, of Wrenshall, both 22, were killed in a crash about 6 a.m. Tuesday on Highway 61 in Lake County. The State Patrol reported that Aaron Nelson lost control of his Chevrolet S10 pickup on an icy Gooseberry River bridge and the northbound truck struck a southbound Jeep Liberty driven by Molly Gadsby, 23, of Silver Bay. She had minor injuries.

The two friends were just minutes from their destination, some deer hunting land near the park, when the accident happened. Both spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoors, family members said.

Katherine Camps of Duluth said her thoughts about Nik are probably the same as any grandparent's, but she can't stop using the word "special" while grieving his death.

"He just was," she said Wednesday. "He just loved life."

Nik lived with Camps' son a block from her home while attending the University of Minnesota Duluth. He graduated in June with a degree in business administration and information technology. He was a caregiver for TBI Residential Services.

"If I had a problem with my computer, he'd come over," Camps said.

She said it's helpful in her grief to know that Nik lived life to the fullest. "I just can't understand," she said. "He's gone."

"Both of those kids were real nice kids," said Roger Fjone of Proctor, grandfather to Aaron Nelson.

He said his grandson "always wanted to do things the right way. He was soft-hearted, kind."

Aaron would come visit just to say hi to his grandmother, Marlene, who "loved the ground he walked on."

"It's the sum of all fears, losing a child," he said.

Aaron earned a pilot's license after graduating from Carlton with honors. He was on the football and hockey teams, and, in a shocker to Fjone, was even involved in school plays. He had been studying law enforcement at Fond du Lac Community College this fall.

"He was enthusiastic about everything he did. He was upbeat about everything," he said. "He was never mean, just a nice kid."